While the AFC Championship is all about high-powered offenses, the NFC Championship is going to be a defensive stalemate as the top-ranked Seattle Seahawks take on the fifth best San Francisco 49ers (6.30pm ET, Sunday on Fox).
I know I have mentioned this before when offering betting advice for Seattle but it bears saying again. When it comes to the Seahawks, the X Factor is almost always the legendary and proven to be successful 12th Man, otherwise known as the fan atmosphere.
Recently, there has been no tougher place to play in the NFL than at Century Link. This is not a coincidence. The stadium crowd has on several occasions broken sound barrier records and might very well do it again considering the intensity of not just this game but the rivalry that accompanies it.
So no matter what other advantages the 49ers might have, you can’t underestimate the power of the 12th Man. It’s not the do all end all, but considering its track record it’s something you would definitely be wise to consider.
NFC West Championship
There is a very meaningful rivalry that has grown out of the matchups between the NFC West division rivals because in a lot of ways, the teams have come from the same place. Both led by college head coaches on the sidelines and young, determined to prove something QBs in the huddle, the Seahawks and Niners have risen to prominence. In the process, they have turned one of the NFL’s worst divisions into one of the best.
During the regular season, the 49ers were one of just three teams to defeat the Seahawks. The teams split their series with the home team winning both times. To that note, Seattle is the home team on Sunday. As it has throughout this recent rivalry, the home team will have the advantage.
Since Jim Harbaugh (SF) and Pete Carroll (SEA) moved this rivalry into a new chapter, the home team has been victorious nine out of ten times. The one outlier was a victory by the Seahawks at Candlestick Park back in 2009.
The Same Quarterback?
- (SEA) Russell Wilson: 101.2 RAT (7th in NFL), 26 TD (9th in NFL), 3,357 YDS
- (SF) Colin Kaepernick: 91.6 RAT (10th in NFL), 21 TD, 3,197 YDS
What’s the difference between Kaepernick and Wilson (pictured)? As it turns out there really isn’t much other than a few touchdowns and couple hundred yards. It is true that Wilson leads in both of these categories but the differences are negligible.
Even in the running game though, these two young QBs have put up similar numbers. Kaepernick ran for 524 yards on 92 attempts for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Wilson ran for 539 yards on 96 attempts for an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
Veteran Running Games Take Center Stage
- (SF) Frank Gore: 276 ATT, 1,128 YDS (9th in NFL), 9 TD (6th in NFL)
- (SEA) Marshawn Lynch: 301 ATT, 1,257 YDS (6th in NFL), 12 TD (1st in NFL)
Once again, you’d be hard pressed to find too many differences between the guys who run behind Kaepernick and Wilson. Both Lynch and Gore are veterans in this league and both continue to have success on the ground.
In a defensive battle, running games have a lot of importance. The team that utilizes this element of the game to the best ability will likely be the one that reaches the Super Bowl. And it is not as if either team is shying away from the ground game.
Lynch carried for a season-tying high 28 times against the New Orleans Saints, putting in 140 yards and two TDs. Gore’s usage has been restrained a bit but this isn’t to say San Francisco is turning away from the running game. Combined, Gore and Kaepernick have topped 100 rush yards in both of their postseason games.
Needless to say, both teams rely heavily on the rush. It will be up to the defenses to clamp down and really focus on stopping both teams’ powerful ground games.
- SF Defense: 17 points allowed (3rd in NFL), 316.9 yards allowed (5th in NFL), 221 pass yards allowed (7th in NFL), 95.9 rush yards allowed (4th in NFL)
- SEA Defense: 14.4 points allowed (1st in NFL), 273.6 yards allowed (1st in NFL), 172 pass yards allowed (1st in NFL), 101.6 rush yards allowed (7th in NFL)
Seattle’s defense has once again clicked on all cylinders this season. Behind the dominant duo of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, the Seahawks led the league in pass defense and were among the best teams in forced turnovers as well. Against the Saints, a top-three scoring offense, the Seahawks held them to just 15 points.
Coincidentally or not, the one area where Seattle wasn’t the best was rushing defense. Although seventh best in the league is certainly no laughing matter. San Francisco’s defense hasn’t been a slouch either. They finished top-ten in most defensive categories including being third in points allowed.
49ers at Seahawks NFC Championship Game Betting Picks
Expect the game to be gritty. Matchups at Century Link typically are but this one should be a defensive struggle. The total is set at just 39.5 while the Seahawks are three point home favorites.
Home-field advantage and the role it has played in this rivalry as well as the impact of the 12th Man, are likely giving the Seahawks those points. Otherwise, the teams match up almost identically. No one is that much better in any given stat area and both teams have the benefit of playoff experience. But I didn’t mention the 12th Man’s impact for no reason.
- Take the Seahawks -3pts @ odds of -120 with BetOnline Sportsbook to cover the spread. They are -3.5pts @ -110 with Bovada.
- Expect the final score to stay below the 39.5 total points at -110 odds with Bovada. It is the same odds but slightly worse value for the under at 38.5pts with BetOnline.
- If you are not from the United States then place these NFC Championship game bets with Bet365 Online Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.